MBTA Communities

Multi-Family Zoning Requirements

What is the MBTA Communities Legislation?

On January 14, 2021, Massachusetts amended its General Laws to add a new Section 3A to Chapter 40A called the “MBTA Communities Zoning Law”. This section requires MBTA Communities to have at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted as-of-right (“As-of-right” means development that may proceed under a zoning bylaw without the need for a special permit, variance, zoning amendment, wavier, or other discretionary zoning approval).

The Town of Wrentham is one of the 177 Massachusetts communities impacted by this new law. Classified as a “MBTA Adjacent Community”, Wrentham does not host a commuter rail station within its borders but abuts communities that do (Franklin, Norfolk & Foxborough). As such, the multi-family district must have the following characteristics:

  • It must be a minimum of 50 acres, half of which must be contiguous land;
  • Multi-family dwellings must be allowed at a minimum gross density of 15 units/acre;
  • The units must be suitable for families with children and no age restrictions;
  • The district should be near an existing downtown, village center, or area of underutilized/abandoned structures with redevelopment potential.

The deadline for compliance with the new law is December 31, 2024. Failure to comply will make Wrentham ineligible for certain State grants and at risk of civil enforcement under Federal and State Fair Housing Laws. See the Attorney General's Advisory Concerning Enforcement of the MBTA Communities Zoning Law

This is NOT a housing production mandate. To comply with the new 3A law, Wrentham must simply rezone 50 acres of land, which, in addition to the existing and allowed zoning uses, also allows multi-family housing by right. There is no State-mandated affordability component, but the State does allow communities to have up to 10% of housing units built through MBTA Zoning as Affordable units – the remaining 90% must remain market-rate.

Project Information

The Town was selected to participate in an MBTA Zoning Compliance Technical Assistance (3A-TA) program through the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP). Through this program, the Town was partnered with Bohler Engineering to go through the Compliance Model using different scenarios and parcels to determine the best possible mix. The program ran till February 2024. 

The folders below contain helpful information relating to MBTA Communities Law and its requirements. Meeting Recordings can be found via the link on the left side bar.